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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 72.djvu/72

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

It is fairly well settled that the gold of the ancients came mainly from three places, namely, Asia Minor, southern India and South Africa. In the first-mentioned locality it was principally obtained by washing the banks and bars, and even the beds of certain streams, while in the last two it seems to have come more largely from crushing the outcrops of auriferous quartz veins. What is known as the Dekkan region of the peninsula of Hindustan, and certain parts of the valleys of the Limpopo and Zambesi, in South Africa, are dotted with the remains of prehistoric excavations on such veins, some of which when cleaned out show that the workers succeeded in penetrating in places as much as two hundred feet into the earth; while in the same neighborhoods we find the relics of human structures whose age is certainly only to be reckoned in terms of thousands of years. In India, after many years of tribulation, a modern gold-mining industry has been successfully reestablished on the basis of the old one, and in South Africa the region now known as Rhodesia, where the ancients conducted very extensive operations, is slowly undergoing the processes of rehabitation.

Many of the rivers of Asia Minor were noted three to five thousand years ago for the gold washed from their beds. Crœsus, one of the kings of Lydia, who became extremely wealthy through the working with slaves of some of the stream beds of his kingdom, was one of the celebrated actual characters of that country and those times, and the river of Pactolus, whose golden sands are mentioned by several ancient historians, was one of the most noted of its metal-bearing streams.

It is probable that in the prehistoric and early historic periods of civilization gold in some quantities (not large) came also from the headwaters of the White Nile in Abyssinia, from southern Persia, from some of the East Indian isles and from China. There is no evidence that the Ural deposits in Russia were known in those remote days, but it seems very likely that a fair amount of the precious metal was obtained from the flanks of the Atlas range of mountains in northern Africa.

When I mention the ancients I mean that period of the world's history (and all the unknown eras before it) that culminated in Phœnician nationality, covering the Egyptian, Babylonian, Assyrian, Hittite and Persian empires, and the vast but quiet civilization in Hindustan, China and Japan. In the main the people of those days were Asiatics and Africans, and belonged to the Semitic and Turanian races, though the Persians and Hindoos were more or less Aryan in race and language and northern in temperament.

About 1000 B.C., when Greek nationality began to assume a commanding position, and when most of the older southern empires had passed their prime, when, in fact, the day of Europe was beginning